Skip to content Skip to navigation

Nuclear disarmament must be multilateral

United Nations Building
United Nations building in New York City. Photo: Steve Cadman / Creative Commons via flickr


Saying that “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” President Obama used his speech yesterday, June 19, 2013 at the Brandenburg Gate to revive his modest but flagging nuclear arms control agenda.

Meanwhile, the United States is ignoring multilateral efforts to move the world toward his vision of a world without nuclear weapons and also clear signals from Russia that multilateral diplomacy is the only way to achieve further significant reductions in the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

A June 6 letter delivered to the president to encourage the United States to engage in multilateral disarmament forums was signed by Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, American Friends Service Committee, Peace Action, Western States Legal Foundation, and 20 other groups. It urged that:

The president speak at the September 26 high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations in New York and demonstrate U.S. readiness to fully engage in multilateral efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons globally. There he could announce the intention to hold a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits, which would provide an excellent vehicle.

The U.S. should participate in the follow-on international conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons scheduled  for February 2014 in Mexico after failing to attend the first such conference in Oslo attended by 127 other governments

The U.S. cease boycotting the UN’s Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, which is developing proposals for multilateral negotiations to achieve and sustain a world free of nuclear weapons –as well as support the working group’s extension into 2014.

President Obama announced that he will attend the 2014 meeting of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, and that he will host a final session in Washington in 2016. But securing nuclear materials, while significant, does not address the dangers posed by more than 17,000 nuclear weapons held by states, about 2,000 of which are ready for immediate launch – more than enough to end life as we know it.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, as are all other nuclear-armed countries. It is estimated that the U.S. will spend $640 billion over the next decade to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, including heavy bombers, submarines, and land-based missiles. In addition, the U.S. is continuing to fund deployments of so-called “missile defenses” that Russia has made clear are a barrier to further nuclear reduction negotiations.

The June 6 letter sent to the White House and signed by 24 organizations represents the hopes of many Americans that President Obama will pursue this historic moment and engage in multilateral efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons in our lifetime.  

The letter is online at